A service user leader has condemned a plan by the Department for Work and Pensions to trial a scheme similar to the Department of Health’s individual budgets pilots.
The two departments were also urged to avoid a “turf war” between government agencies over control of the scheme, which would give disabled people a statutory right to control much of the support the state gives them.
The provision is included in the Welfare Reform Bill, which is due to be published today, and the DWP plans to pilot it from 2010.
However, Sue Bott, director of the National Council for Independent Living, said the pilots would cause “unnecessary delay”, given the DH’s piloting of individual budgets from November 2005 to December 2007, an evaluation of which was published last October.
“I feel that if there’s an acceptance of the principle, then let’s get on with it and make it work,” she said. “There’s enough information on the ground.”
The pilots will examine the cost-effectiveness of the scheme and which funding streams should be included.
Anne McDonald, programme director for community well-being at the Local Government Association, said there was a danger that people could feel “piloted out” and that the new pilots needed to be clear in what they set out to achieve.
With the DWP and DH sponsoring distinct but similar programmes, McDonald said: “Disabled people can’t afford for there to be a turf war about who’s in charge of running individual budgets on a local level. We would need to bring teams together in the same way we’re bringing budgets together.”
A DH spokesperson said: “‘Right to Control’ complements the Department of Health’s personalisation agenda and has the potential to improve services for a wide range of people. We are included on a joint advisory board for right to control and we will continue to work with DWP and others to find the best way forward for the initiative.”
Similarities with individual budgets
The scheme is likely to cover many if not all of the same funding streams as individual budgets (IBs) and possibly some others, though not cash benefits.
Disabled people will also have the right to take some or all of their funding as a direct payment, leaving the rest to be managed by their local authority.
However, while IBs focused on social care users, the right to control would apply to all disabled people. The IB evaluation also identified significant barriers to integrating funding streams, including legislative obstacles. The Welfare Reform Bill is expected to tackle these.